William Wegman is known far and wide for his portraits of Weimaraner dogs, but that is not what defines him. At 67, the artist still has a hand in photography, painting, video, music and other mediums, but he manages to steal an hour or two practically every day to get on the ice to play hockey. Here, he talks about what drives him in the studio and how, all in all, he’s done too much.
WWD: What do you think is missing in the art world today?
William Wegman: Nothing. There’s too much. When I emerged in the late Sixties, it seemed to be a simpler time where there was one thing to go up against. Where today, everything seems to be accepted and OK, so there isn’t this sort of wall to break through, which leaves everything scarily open.
WWD: Is there anything you haven’t had the time to get to that you hope to?
W.W.: I’ve done way too much. I wish that I hadn’t done so much. I just think the sheer number of things that I’ve done and the variety of things I’ve done…
WWD: What would you have done with the time you spent doing those things?
W.W.: I probably wish I had had a TV show. That is something I would like, a video that had a built-in audience, like one minute a week somewhere. That would be fun.
WWD: What will your next project be?
W.W.: I’m working on some really large paintings and I’m trying to make a video that will be projected on an exterior wall of the Everson [Museum] in Syracuse with a high-density, high-intensity video projector. I’m also doing photographs as usual. I’m very involved in music. I’m a big voracious listener of early music, Renaissance, pre-Renaissance and 20th- and 21st-century classical music.
WWD: Have you seen any artists lately that you really like?
W.W.: There’s this guy [Willem] de Kooning at the Modern. I saw that show. I spent the summer in Maine in the woods, Rangeley Lakes. It’s a ski area, lakes and mountains, kind of like the Adirondacks. It’s near nothing. It’s near Canada and New Hampshire. I usually work on photos and paintings there. I have four dogs now so they’re really happy there. When I come back to New York, it kind of takes me a long time to feel like going out again.
WWD: When you were starting out, was there an experience or a person who made you feel that art could be a career?
W.W.: When I was an art student at Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, I told one of my teachers that I was going to go into teacher education and he looked at me and said, “No, you’re going into the painting department.” He sort of goaded me into doing that. I thought I had to do something safe to make a living, like being a teacher…it was kind of steady from deciding to go to art school, to deciding to major in art instead of education, to just supporting myself albeit very modestly at first as an artist. I’d live on a stipend from my gallery of $1,000 a month — $12,000 a year — to live in New York City in the late Sixties.
WWD: What’s a perfect day?
W.W.: I did a photograph called “A Perfect Day.” It’s myself and this blonde lovely woman against a pure white background and they’re wearing black. And then the alternate is the same couple against a black background and that was “A Perfect Night.” My passion is hockey. I’m a fanatical hockey player. I play almost every day. I started playing when I was 59 and I’m 67 now. My son’s a great hockey player so I started to play when he did.
WWD: Why are you so drawn to it?
W.W.: I think it’s the endorphins you get from that kind of superexercise. I was fanatical about hockey until I went to college. But I didn’t play in college. I’m not good or anything. I just like it.